Breath Of Fresh Ayr


    I arrive one chilly winter evening at a freshly and warmly
    decorated bungalow in Ayr, on an estate close to the town’s
    racecourse, home of the Scottish Grand National. Inside, Andrew
    Boyle is like many other 20 year olds at home. He’s playing
    Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on his computer. His friend, Andrew
    Ralph, 17, is around to see him – as usual. His mum sits in
    an armchair with a cup of tea, catching her breath between jobs. He
    wants beans for his tea – but no one has remembered to buy
    any.


     


    However, Andrew has severe learning difficulties, no speech and
    needs physical help 24 hours a day. Yet the house I’m sitting
    in is Andrew’s house: not his mum’s or the
    council’s. And he is proud of it.


     


    His move into independent living has been managed by Partners for
    Inclusion (PFI), a voluntary supported living service that was set
    up to help people with learning difficulties and mental health
    needs move on from institutional settings. “One of our
    principles is that a person lives in a way that makes sense for
    them – so we don’t do group homes. Sometimes people
    want to move in with a friend and that’s fine. But we
    don’t put people together because they have autism, epilepsy
    or whatever,” says service manager Hugh Torrance. 


     


    However, as Andrew lived with his parents rather than in an
    institution, he marked a departure for PFI. “It’s quite
    easy to move people from long-stay hospitals, where, to be honest,
    the services have been pretty poor, and to get them a better life.
    But it’s a different proposition when people are moving on
    from a family home,” says service manager, Jim
    Brady.


     


    It was also tough for Andrew’s parents and siblings.
    “It was almost as if we were doing him an injustice because
    we had got to the stage where we felt we couldn’t
    cope,” says Anne Boyle, Andrew’s mum. PFI placed
    Andrew’s support team in the family home for a year before
    Andrew moved out. “For us it was a nightmare having people in
    our house from 9am to 10pm: we couldn’t argue or fall out!
    But we wanted him to be an individual and it’s working better
    than we could ever dream of,” she says.


     


    PFI employ a staff team that work specifically with and for each
    individual. “Andrew’s team works with him alone.
    Andrew’s team leader, Zoe McDonald, co-ordinates what happens
    at ground level to keep the decision-making as near to Andrew as
    possible. So we get into a position where we have worked ourselves
    out of a job, really,” says Torrance.


     


    Andrew is one of 42 people that PFI work with – and he may
    well be one of the last as, according to PFI director, Doreen
    Kelly, only three more service users may be taken on. “To get
    the best out of people you need to devolve power to them –
    not just staff but the people we support. To do that you need
    smaller systems,” she says.


     


    Empowerment, as part of the social work lexicon, is a word bandied
    about a lot. But Andrew Boyle is living the jargon.
    “We’re striving to give control back to people who get
    support, and move organisations out, so that they can get on living
    their lives rather than being part of service-land. There are a few
    similar organisations but generally what we’re offering is
    quite unique – and it really ought not to be,” says
    Kelly


     


    There are many questions to answer honestly in order to offer real
    control to service users – and ones more taxing than those
    facing Andrew Boyle on his computer game. But when Anne Boyle says,
    “It’s important that Andrew’s happy and he is
    – he’s ecstatic – we can really tell,” it
    sounds like they, at least, have hit the jackpot. 


     

     

    LESSONS
    LEARNED

    • “Working with
      Andrew things were happening so quickly I was feeling that a lot of
      the important stuff was being lost and that we were losing the
      story of what was going on,” says Torrance.
      A video diary turned out to be so good that interviews were added
      and a film took shape. Indeed, it was premiered at a local cinema
      with Andrew and family arriving in a limousine. “We thought other
      people would really benefit from this. Mum and dad were keen to
      share this with other families to show how we did it,” adds
      Torrance.
    • PFI staff try to
      behave as if a person’s money is a direct payment. “We wrap
      services around them but take out our management fee,” says
      Kelly.
    • However, nothing
      is perfect. “I think genuinely we haven’t got the real
      relationships or friendships thing going yet. The people we work
      with have a lot of paid people in their life. We have some people
      who have made some real connections with their communities but it’s
      not across the board.” says Kelly.

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